Sometimes it is good to look back. “Anything Goes” is a musical from the primordial days of the genre when stringing song-and-dance numbers together around a singular story was still a relatively novel idea.
Of course, it didn’t hurt the show’s longevity chances when all the songs were written by Cole Porter working in his prime. But it’s clear from the touring production of the show (now playing at the Fox Theatre through June 9) why this production is still going strong after nearly 80 years.
What makes this particular production of “Anything Goes” stand out over the decades of being put on by high schools, summer stocks and community theaters are the fantastically choreographed and executed dance numbers and Broadway vet Rachel York’s starring turn as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney.
York delivers one of the finest female vocal performances that the Fox Theatre has ever seen. So many of these touring productions that travel through the Fox feature beautifully thin-voiced ingenues, who cautiously and precisely work their way through their songs.
York (who is probably best known for portraying Lucille Ball in the CBS movie “Lucy”) is a mature, full-throated singer who confidently glides through songs like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” while not being afraid to put her own stamp on them.
She’s also a triple threat as she is out front during the show’s biggest dance numbers and proves her worth as a fine comedic actress; delivering her lines with expert timing and a jaunty, Mae-West-esque accent.
With York setting the bar the rest of the cast raises their game in this screwball comedy set on the deck of a transatlantic ocean liner.
At its core, the show is a love story, as young stockbroker Billy Crocker (Josh Franklin) stows away to stop his true love Hope (Alex Finke) from marrying uptight Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer).
Then for good measure, we have lots of mistaken identities, a good-natured gangster (Fred Applegate), and some plans so crazy they just might work.
“Anything Goes” is a lot of fun, but what might be the most impressive is how well it holds up after all these years.
Just like a show that might open today it is peppered with pop culture references. Granted those references have to do with the early 1930s, but I still enjoy a good Fatty Arbuckle joke. It also makes some wry commentary about our country’s celebrity obsession that is unfortunately as relevant as ever.
When all is said and done this is simply a terrific show with some terrific performances. You can see that when audiences walked out of the theater in 1934 they might have felt that this whole “musical” thing might be around for a while.
“Anything Goes” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through June 9. For tickets call (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.